Despite the rush of popularity in recent years, the Winter Music Conference has been a Floridian staple since the mid-’80s. And one thing we know for sure is that during those early years (when it was held in Fort Lauderdale, if you can believe that), there was nary a mention of dubstep, jungle, electro house, or trance—hell, techno and house were only in their nascent phases. So what were they booming back then?
The sound of Miami in the late ’80s was owned by bass—whether the dirty style preferred by trunk-rattling hip-hop crews, or the funky, synth-heavy variety purveyed by freestyle folks like Debbie Deb, Stevie B, and producer “Pretty Tony” Butler. So before you thrust headlong into the subsequent hybrids of modern dance music this weekend, enjoy this throwback of 10 classic tunes from the Miami freestyle era.
Freestyle – “Don’t Stop the Rock”
That’s right—the group itself is actually called Freestyle, which probably came before the name of the sound was really well known. Check out those breaks and vocoder!
Debbie Deb – “Lookout Weekend”
Like “Don’t Stop the Rock,” “Lookout Weekend” was also produced by man on the scene “Pretty Tony” Butler, and he brought Debbie Deb to huge international fame with this breakout hit.
Stevie B – “Party Your Body”
Fort Lauderdale-born Stevie B is the undisputed King of Freestyle, and was just making his mark with tracks like “Party Your Body” when the Winter Music Conference got started.
Nice ‘N Wild – “Diamond Girl”
Freestyle was pretty solidly lady’s night every night, but occasionally guys like the aforementioned Stevie B and South Florida’s Nice ‘N Wild would crack the charts, too. No, this is not the original version of the video—but it was too hilarious for us not to show you anyway.
Trinere – “I’ll Be All You Ever Need”
“I’ll Be All You Ever Need” has got a super-strong dance-pop vocal, but it’s the crazy cut-up samples around the 2:10 mark that elevate it to true “freestyle jam” status. And yep, it’s another Pretty Tony classic.
Nocera – “Summertime Summertime”
Maria Nocera was actually born in Italy, but 1986’s “Summertime Summertime” was an undisputed freestyle classic—and she’ll forever be an honorary Miami resident, despite currently living in New York.
Company B – “Fascinated”
Company B was without a doubt a producer-driven project, but all the same, this somewhat contrived girl group cranked out a few big tunes, including the above radio hit “Fascinated.”
Connie – “Funky Little Beat”
Miami’s fertile freestyle scene of the ’80s was heavily populated by one-hit wonders. Connie was one such artist, but she knocked it out of the park with “Funky Little Beat,” which was later covered by fellow freestyler Debbie Deb.
Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam – “I Wonder If I Take You Home”
Of all the freestyle bands of the time, it’s likely that Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam enjoyed the most pop-world success, due to tracks like “I Wonder If I Take You Home,” “Lost in Emotion,” and later “Let the Beat Hit ‘Em.”
Exposé – “Come Go With Me”
We’d be remiss not to mention Exposé in our freestyle roundup. The female trio experienced huge success with this ’80s classic produced by Lewis Martinée, who also worked with Company B, the Cover Girls, and plenty of other Miami greats.